The new ICE facility is nearing completion at 40 Manson Libby Road in Scarborough. Courtesy photo Tina Marie Davidson

SCARBOROUGH — The construction of an U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement processing facility at 40 Manson Libby Road in Scarborough has prompted local requests for the town to take action in the form of policy.

Residents as well as members of De-ICE Maine, a local coalition, brought their concerns about an ICE facility locating in Scarborough to the Town Council on June 2, along with their wishes for an ordinance to keep local law enforcement and other officials from cooperating with ICE.

Construction on the facility began in December, having received Planning Board approval that year. The Town Council first discussed the possibility of ICE moving to Scarborough in March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

De-ICE Maine, an organization working in support of U.S. immigrants, has been engaging in public outreach in Scarborough, said organization member Kelly Merrill. Along with group members, Scarborough residents have started speaking up to councilors.

An informational meeting about the facility and ICE is taking place on June 24 at 6 p.m., Merrill said. The location is not decided, but people who are interested can contact [email protected] or follow @deicemaine on Facebook.

The town has been focused on this year’s budget and a new growth management ordinance, but Merrill said the coalition wants to keep ICE in the forefront of the councilors’ minds.

“We’ve been in close contact with the council and really understood that they didn’t have the bandwidth to be paying attention to this so we really want their undivided attention, so we showed up last week ago to the Town Council meeting,” De-ICE members said.

At the meeting, Merrill said De-ICE Maine has been inquiring about an ordinance for the past five months that would prevent cooperation between ICE and local officials such as school superintendents, the council and law enforcement.

“There’s no reason not to pass it,” they said. “As others have pointed out, we’re not obligated to make their job easier. This is a racist, rogue agency that is responsible for incomprehensible human rights violation that have been condemned by every international human rights organization.”

On April 28, ACLU Massachusetts announced that the organization has called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to close 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, which included Bristol County Detention Center, located in Massachusetts.

Abigail Henry, a Scarborough resident, said she was in support of an ordinance that mirrors other cities with an ICE presence.

“Without our consent, ICE has made a home here in our town,” she said. “I urge you to pass an ordinance to prevent cooperation with this agency that is so at-odds with our town’s values, keeping an open relationship between all communities and local police and improves public safety for everyone.”

ICE, a federally funded organization, does not need local assistance, said Jillian Trapini-Huff, resident.

“I would also like to see a policy that would ensure Scarborough Police do not cooperate with ICE officers,” she said. “For one, ICE is an extremely well-funded organization. They should not be draining local resources. Communities around the country have described ICE as being insidious, and before long it’s hard to differentiate between local officers and ICE. A clear expectation at the beginning is the best way to avoid that.”

Construction on the ICE facility at 40 Manson Libby Road earlier this year. Catherine Bart photo

Police Chief Robert Moulton is drafting a standard operating procedure, or SOP, regarding the issue, said Town Manager Tom Hall. A standard operating procedure is defined as a series of instructions that help workers carry out a routine.

“Whether that will sufficient to meet all the needs, I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t seen it, but I would strongly suggest the council wait to see how that develops. We’d certainly be pleased to share that.”

Hall said that although Moulton is retiring in July, the process to hire his replacement has included interview questions regarding the ICE facility’s presence, and having a new standard operating procedure will help “set the tone” for the incoming chief.

Scarborough High School students, who learned of the facility last year, have gotten involved in protest and spreading information, including Gracie Murnane, a recent SHS graduate.

Local activist Erin Rowan reached out to the school’s Anti-Racism Coalition, Murnane said. After learning about the facility, the coalition drafted a letter to the council in opposition of ICE.

“(Scarborough Anti-Racism Coalition) consists principally of students at SHS, so this discussion has been ongoing at the high school,” she said. “In fact, (Merrill) from De-ICE Maine spoke at a Civil Rights Club meeting earlier this year. Because the presence of ICE directly contradicts the racial justice work we are trying to do here in Scarborough, many students have discussed the issue and worked to spread the word.”

Having an ICE facility in town enforces a racist sentiment, Murnane said.

“ICE sits at the forefront of two centuries of racist immigration policy,” she said. “The broken system created by these policies is an intentional attack on communities of color in the United States. ICE enforces this spirit of racism, exclusion, and injustice. Most will readily admit that our immigration system is broken. Then how does it make sense to continue enforcing it, particularly with the ruthless, inhumane methods that ICE engages in? Regardless of how small this facility is, it represents that spirit, that history. It is therefore crucial that we shed light on this agency’s gross human rights abuses and understand what this single facility represents.”

Merrill said De-ICE Maine continues to work to make ICE’s processes as “inconvenient” as possible.

“We’ve seen this in other places, other municipalities, where ICE comes in and they will find a way to circumnavigate the intentions of the town if the intentions of the town are not crystal clear,” they said. “You know, ICE being there is a done deal, but there are other measures we can take.”

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